A small business may stave off hackers with comprehensive malware protection, cloak its network with impenetrable firewalls and even lock down its mobile devices. Those small business security steps are prudent safeguards and important steps in keeping vital business and customer data out of the wrong hands.
Yet for all these efforts, hackers can still cause financial ruin, according to Fred White, product marketing for Verio, a provider of web hosting and cloud services.
"A lot of security for small business generally focuses on the traditional sort of cyber attacks," said White. He told Small Business Computing that, instead of going after secured PCs and servers, hackers opt to "attack your online presence."
The IT security battleground has a new front. Rather than launch fruitless attacks on fortified networks, hackers are targeting the websites of small business. And they're succeeding.
Hackers Target Small Business Websites
Data from StopTheHacker, a provider of website security and online reputation monitoring services and a Verio partner, shows that a staggering 90 percent of all malware is distributed by small business websites.
While their methods vary, attackers usually hone in on two weaknesses. Typically, a website itself ends up getting compromised, according to White. "Most Web hosting providers give you a lot of ways to manage websites," he says.
Unfortunately, he adds, "a lot of people keep the default settings," making it a trivial matter to take control of a website. Making matters worse, many small businesses sites, particularly "brochure websites" that consist of handful of pages, are typically left in "set-it-and-forget-it mode," said White.
Alternately, hackers take aim at content management systems (CMSes). White suggests keeping a close eye on Wordpress, Joomla and other popular CMSes and that you patch them as soon as security updates are issued.
The results of inaction can prove catastrophic. Nearly 60 percent of small businesses that fall victim to a cybercrime shutter their doors within six months. "The underlying issue is that a lot of small businesses are fragile," said White. Like many consumers living paycheck to paycheck, many small firms can't afford to have their cash flow interrupted.
Blacklisted By Google
Adding insult to injury, those websites then get blacklisted by Google. On average, the search giant blacklists 9,500 websites each day. Getting blacklisted by Google can, in effect, render them a non-entity to the world at large.
"Most modern browsers seek advice from these blacklists [Google, Yahoo, Bing and others] and attempt to protect Internet surfers from landing up on infected websites. When users try to visit your website, they will be blocked from doing so by their browser," stated the report.
"This leads to loss of revenue and visibility in the Internet," along with irreparable harm to a business' reputation, according to the report.
To help small business owners avoid that fate, Verio and StopTheHacker have teamed to provide a free website security report (registration required) that details how business websites are built, how hackers target them and how you can protect your site.
In addition, Verio customers can now add StopTheHacker's website security and reputation monitoring service to their sites. Prices start at $10 per month.
Pedro Hernandez is a contributing editor at Small Business Comptuing. Follow him on Twitter @ecoINSITE.
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